Long-time beer drinker Ross Lewis casts his eye over the kegs from here and abroad.
There has been enough time to recover from Good Beer Week in Melbourne.
And as the winter days set in Murray's Craft Brewing Company is preparing drinkers for the overcast conditions with their annual Dark Beer Month.
But it is a favourite food from summer that has attracted the attention of beer lovers.
Two Imperial Stouts are on the festival menu, including one made with more than 1000 oysters and mussels.
The series also features a Black IPA and - for the first time in a bottle - a Strong Dark Belgian Ale.
It is enough to warm up the body and spirits as consumers shiver in the cold weather.
“Dark Beer Month will be even bigger than last year, with some great winter beers coming out of our new brewery,” said Murray's head brewer, Shawn Sherlock.
“It begins on the June long weekend, with the release of this year’s Wild Thing Imperial Stout in the bottle and the much anticipated return of my namesake beer, Shawn’s Fault Black IPA.”
“We follow up with the early July release of our collaboration beer with Crafty Pint, Auld Bulgin’ Boysterous Bicep Imperial Stout, in the bottle. This Smoked Belgio Imperial Mussel and Oyster Stout sold out in four days last year, so we’ve decided to brew a bit more this time so more people have the chance to experience the smoky deliciousness of this unique beer.”
Auld Bulgin’ Boysterous Bicep Imperial Stout was originally conceived for the New Zealand ‘Beervana’ festival Media-brew beer challenge. The beer is brewed to reflect the origins of the parties involved and utilises Port Stephens oysters for Murray’s Brewery (based at Port Stephens); blue-lipped mussels from Victoria for Crafty Pint; and green-lipped mussels (native to New Zealand).
Taking things even further, the team added peated distilling malt to the grain bill and fermented it with a Belgian yeast originally sourced from a Trappist monastery.
Australians are now willing to try more dark beers, however, their prevalence increases during the winter months, hence Murray's interest in the annual series, which actually stretches two months, June and July.
Murray’s Dark Beer release program for 2014 is -
Murray’s ‘Wild Thing’ Imperial Stout in the bottle. This is a massive, intense drinking experience inspired by the great stouts favoured by the Russian Imperial Court. The colour is intensely black. The flavour is an intense hit of mocha with some malt sweetness but an aggressive hop bitterness and roast grain bite to balance. 10 per cent ABV.
Shawn’s Fault India Black Ale on draught. This is an out-there beer and a lot of fun! Inspired by the emerging India Black Ale style, this is a full flavoured IPA brewed using dark malts. The result is a great blend of big hop flavour and aroma with the strong dark chocolate, almost coffee-like flavours. If you like big flavours and something a bit different, you'll love Shawn's Fault. And if you don’t, then it's Shawn's fault! 7.5 per cent ABV.
Auld Bulgin’ Boysterous Bicep Imperial Stout in the bottle. Brewed in collaboration with the Crafty Pint beer blog, this is a truly bizarre beer. Strong chocolate character underpins the beer with peaty smoked notes from the distilling malt present, especially when the beer is young. The high ABV and Belgian yeast character combine to add even further complexity to the beer, before a minerally, briney finish from the mussels and oysters takes the beer in yet another direction. Rich, complex and fun. 10% ABV.
Murray’s ‘Hell of the North’ Strong Dark Belgio Ale in the bottle. Brewed using a blend of Trappist ale yeasts it is a beast of a beer... in a very elegant way. Raisiny and warm from the high ABV, it’s a perfect winter warmer. Sweet mouth filling malt up front with a remarkably dry finish for a beer of this size. Enjoy in moderation by the fire from your best chalice glass with a selection of the finest cheeses. 11.5 per cent ABV.
Release Schedule -
Murray’s Wild Thing Imperial Stout in the bottle and Shawn’s Fault on draught will be released on Saturday 7 June at Murray’s Brewery, then progressively available from leading craft beer outlets from 10 June.
Auld Bulgin’ Boysterous Bicep Imperial Stout in the bottle will be released on Saturday 5 July at Murray’s Brewery, then progressively available from leading craft beer outlets from 7 July.